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Radishes, Cool season vegetables

Growing Fall Root Vegetables

Fall is a wonderful time to grow root vegetables. Carrots, radishes, turnips and beets are easy to grow and add fresh flavor to our favorite seasonal dishes. Give your root veggies a leg up this year by taking a few extra steps to provide healthy soil and a healthy environment where they can grow throughout the fall season.

Preparing Soil for Root Veggies

Root vegetables are taproots, which means that they need garden beds free from rocks, soil clumps and debris that can deform the formation of the root. Before planting check your garden bed for any of these impediments and remove them. After doing this, check the pH of the garden bed. Some vegetables grow better at different pHs, and you may want to add lime to adjust the pH level of the soil. Radishes, for example, prefer a pH of 5.5-6.8.

Row plantings make weeding easier since you can use mulch or straw to prevent weeds between rows. You can put down more mulch during times when there is risk of frost for the added use of preventing your vegetables from freezing. This also lowers the amount of water needed to keep your plants healthy.

Wildlife and Pest Control

To prevent rabbits, gophers and deer from making snacks out of your vegetables, you may want to use a dried blood fertilizer such as Espoma Blood Meal. This organic fertilizer is made out of animal blood and works well as a deterrent to other wildlife. Netting and fencing can also keep out deer, and you can visit our blog post on deer proofing your garden for more ideas. 

Cabbage loopers and other pests on cruciferous vegetables veg (broc, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, etc.) use B.T.

Watering

Watering regularly improves crop shape and flavor. Radishes especially will take on a woody flavor if they are underwatered, so it is important to water them consistently. If you let them dry, moisten the soil slowly over the course of a couple of days as drenching dry carrots and other root vegetables will cause them to split. For more information on watering, check out our watering instructions. 

Other Tips

When working in your vegetable garden, keep in mind that root veggies should be hand cultivated. Digging tools commonly used for working with other vegetables can damage the roots. 

Root vegetables can be overwintered with mulch. Pile the mulch up over the shoulders of the root where it emerges from the soil. Using row covers and cold frames is also a good way to keep your root veggie harvest going most of the winter.

Use successive plantings to ensure a constant harvest throughout the season. This means adding new seeds or plants every 2-4 weeks as the season goes on, which will ensure that you always have some tasty veggies ready for harvest.

You’ll Dig Growing Your Own Potatoes

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

I can’t imagine life without potatoes. Can you? Baked, mashed, boiled, fried … nutritious and delicious. I love them all.

Seed potatoes are very easy to grow. Now is the ideal time to plant them because they grow best during cool weather.

First of all, I must say that seed potatoes aren’t seeds. They’re actually small, undersized potatoes. But they’re very different from the ones you would find in grocery stores, which have been treated to prevent sprouting, making them unsuitable for planting. We carry seed potatoes with purple, yellow, red or brown skin. Just plant them directly in the ground, 2” deep and 12” apart.

If the seed potatoes are big enough, you can cut them into pieces to make even more. Each piece needs to have two to three buds or eyes and should be about 2” in diameter. When I cut seed potatoes, I allow the exposed flesh of the potato to air dry for a day or two before planting.

Seed potatoes grow fast and can be ready to harvest in 10 to 12 weeks when they begin to flower. If you’re patient and allow the plants to continue growing, you’ll be rewarded with even bigger potatoes later in the season. I like to plant them in early April and keep them in the ground until late August or early September. At this time, it may seem like your lush, healthy plants have died. But if you carefully dig into the soil, you’ll find your hidden treasure. The potatoes will seem drab, but put them under water and they’ll look like gem stones with their true colors revealed.

You’ll be surprised how good these potatoes taste. They’re juicy and creamy and fragrant. Life is good. But only if you take that first step and come to Merrifield Garden Center and buy seed potatoes while supplies last.